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RGView Connecting the University Community






Contents 4

Graduate apprenticeships


RGU working to upskill NHS staff for COVID-19 crisis


Supporting Scotland’s skills needs in response to the economic impact of COVID-19


Developing professionals for industry 4.0


Healthy relationships at the heart of RGU

14 16 18

Racing for success

Celebrating our cultural heritage through storytelling Expectation vs reality





Beyond the pixels


Accelerating innovation


Major milestone in National Subsea Centre development


LookAgain: cultivating a culture of creativity


Employee profile: Mo Tabib

29 30 34

Community stories: Working from home

Embracing and upholding our shared values




RGU continues to lead the way in innovative workbased learning



Drawing on its expertise of working with employers, RGU was one of the first universities in Scotland to deliver Graduate Apprenticeships and continues to be at the forefront of work-based learning. Since the introduction of the programme in 2017, GAs have developed and RGU has expanded its offering across a range of disciplines, including construction, engineering, business management, IT and accounting. The university has already delivered successful GAs in partnership with more than 150 businesses in a range of sectors, covering the length and breadth of Scotland and recently announced a new round of degree level GAs, with 175 fully-funded places being offered for 2020. “GA’s are an exciting new route to degree qualification enabling learners to access higher education from within the context of a courserelevant job and to be supported by their employers, as well as a Workplace Mentor, who partner with RGU to co-deliver learning,” comments Julie Strachan, Head of Learning and Teaching Development at RGU.

which emphasises the workplace as the main site of learning and makes extensive use of blended learning. This enables us to support the talent pipelines of organisations and the career aspirations of learners in remote locations such as Orkney, Shetland and Lewis.

“We’ve been really fortunate to partner with a wide range of employers of all sizes across a range of sectors and in this way are able to create a rich learning experience for students who share their learning journey in a cohort with diversity of age, career experience, geographic location and industry background. We are particularly proud to offer a GA delivery model

“We are also very proud of the support which we have embedded within our GA provision – this includes a GA Student Success Coach who works collaboratively with Course Teams and the Library to provide bespoke study and personal development support to GA students, and a GA Workplace Mentor Consultant who provides a training and development programme to

help workplace mentors effectively design and deliver work-based learning activities for students.” Julie continues: “RGU will enter its fourth year of delivering GAs in 2020/21 and over that time we have drawn on our evidence and experience base to continually enhance this unique provision. The early years of GA delivery were very much focused on understanding requirements and designing the mechanisms to meet these. With strong foundations in place, our emphasis can now shift to enhancement work, thus further enriching the GA student and employer experience.” The public health situation, evolving since March 2020, has brought some changes to the delivery and assessment of GAs. For example, on-campus days have moved online and assessment requirements have been adjusted to recognise the work-based learning activities of students are likely to changed dramatically.  RGU has also worked closely with SDS to support GA students facing a period of furlough under the new Government provisions to allow students to complete the 2019/20 session.  The innovative and flexible nature of GA courses allows the University to be responsive to the challenges and changes facing employers, workplace mentors and GA students and to capture the rich learning taking place as we all rapidly upskill our remote working and change management capabilities.



RGU working to upskill NHS staff for COVID-19 crisis Over recent weeks RGU has quietly and effectively been collaborating with the NHS to create an army of professionals who are stepping selflessly into new roles.

Groups of dental nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians, and speech and language therapists are embracing new learning in order to use their considerable talents and expertise in a time of crisis. These expert practitioners are redeploying back into the NHS to deliver care at frontline in different ways. Many will work in wards as healthcare support workers, delivering essential nursing care to the acutely unwell at a time of national crisis. RGU is working closely with NHS Grampian to deliver the rolling programme of training, which employs a mixture of digital and face to face learning, focused on fundamental nursing care as well as the surveillance and care of the acutely unwell.


Much of the face to face teaching has been carried out in RGU’s Clinical Skills Centre, a purpose-built teaching and training facility which is designed to allow healthcare professionals to practice clinical skills in a safe but realistic environment. A further programme of training is also being delivered to complement the existing skills of groups of senior specialist nurses as they too step into different roles to work with the most in need across Grampian. Leading the collaboration from RGU is Strategic Lead for Collaborative Practice and registered nurse, Laura Chalmers, who has a background in critical care.

EXTENDING REACH “RGU has designed and is delivering training and education for the frontline redeployment of professionals across Grampian,” she commented “Serving the community as never before, expert lecturers and clinicians are working seamlessly and tirelessly together to deliver training where it is most needed. Therefore, redeployed healthcare professionals are trained and ward ready to step into different roles that will make the world of difference to patients, multidisciplinary teams and to the success of the NHS during the COVID19 era. “Students nurses are voluntarily stepping into clinical practice in frontline areas supported by RGU academic staff, where they are in daily contact with mentors and lecturers who are guiding and supporting their phenomenal contribution at this time.

“Serving the community as never before, expert lecturers and clinicians are working seamlessly and tirelessly together to deliver training where it is most needed.” “Never has an emerging workforce more expertly worked collaboratively, jumping barriers and obstacles to make their contribution invaluable and so gratefully received. At a time when working from home is the norm, RGU staff are at the coal face, teaching online, providing clinical guidance and pastoral support to many students who are in hospitals caring for patients instead of going home and staying with their closest family. “A further programme of training is also being delivered to complement the existing skills of groups of senior specialist nurses as they too step into different roles to work with the most in need across Grampian. “This is not just community payback, this is RGU at its best, creating the workforce for right now and for tomorrow.” Jane Ewen, Chief Nurse, Practice Education & Development at NHS Grampian, added: “This has been a great example of collaborative work which is playing a key role in supporting and preparing the workforce at this time of unprecedented change. The support and flexibility of our university partner continues to be appreciated.”



Supporting Scotland’s skills needs in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 Upskilling individuals and workforces is a key tool to deliver the university’s strategic aim of extending the reach and relevance of education – and to drive employability. It provides support for people to thrive throughout their careers

A great example of this is our portfolio of free short courses, launched to support the skills needs of individuals and workforces across Scotland as they deal with the economic challenges of COVID-19. The university offered 400 fully-funded places across a range of online short courses, focused on strengthening businesses and providing individuals with skills development opportunities in response to the current climate. RGU is initially offered three courses in Strategic Leadership, Resilience and Change Management and Strategic Digital Marketing, with plans to expand the portfolio. The courses are relevant for any sector.


EXTENDING REACH “The university has a long history of providing relevant industry-focused teaching and professional development which is responsive to regional and national skills needs, says Professor Liz Hancock, Vice-Principal for Academic Development and Student Experience.

The courses are completely free and are based on 15 credit modules, which equates to 150 hours of teaching, self-study and assessment spread over 8 to 10 weeks. They will be delivered online, providing learners with a flexible option of professional development to upskill and build expertise.

“The university has a long history of providing relevant industryfocused teaching and professional development which is responsive to regional and national skills needs”

Funded by the Scottish Funding Council to support its strategic outcome of greater innovation in the economy, the courses also utilise university funding to provide more agile support for employees and employers to upskill and reskill.

- Professor Liz Hancock “RGU is committed to the development of the people and the economy of Scotland. Now more than ever we need to support the country’s organisations and our workforces so that they have the skills to respond to the significant business challenges that many are facing in the current climate.

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “These new courses are an investment in the future and I am pleased that we are able to fund them. They will connect key industries with the expertise that exists at Robert Gordon University, helping businesses to keep pace with change.” For more information on RGU’s short courses, visit our Upskill webpage.

HASHTAG TITLES #upskillingNHS Ben Philip, an RGU alumnus and now reporter for the BBC, visited RGU’s Clinical Skills centre to witness first-hand the collaboration with the NHS to upskill allied health professionals who will be redeployed to help in the battle against COVID-19.

“Through close collaboration with industry, we have designed a suite of professional development opportunities to equip workforces with skills in key areas including digital, leadership and organisational resilience.”

#HealthCareers A careers advisor at the Elgin Academy was really positive about the Health Careers day hosted by RGU. The event was attended by S3 and S4 students from her school who took a lot away from the session.

#STEMcareers An RGU alumnus and STEM ambassador Sam Osifeso enjoyed talking to enthusiastic S1 and S2 students at the “Heroes of Tomorrow 2020” event at RGU organised by TechFest. TechFest is an annual festival for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to promote STEM subjects to young people and to the wider community by providing an accessible, diverse and entertaining programme.

#ShortCourseSkills Member of the Scottish Parliament Richard Lochhead praised our free short courses initiative, which seeks to support the skills needs of workforces across Scotland as the country rallies against the impact and economic challenges of COVID-19. He hopes the Scottish business community takes advantage of the opportunity.



Developing Professionals for Industry 4.0 In a survey conducted in 2015, 93% of employers reported that “a candidate’s demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than his or her undergraduate major.” It is becoming increasingly evident that in an era of rising automation, it is the personal and inter-personal attributes of the individual that will be highly sought after by employers, besides the skills and knowledge of their chosen discipline. This is why RGU has developed the Learning and Teaching Framework as a template to underpin our efforts to produce future graduates who possess highly developed and valuable personal attributes as well as professional expertise, skills, judgement and knowledge. In other words, adaptable and skilled graduates equipped for the opportunities and challenges of their future professional careers. This framework is also aligned with research and recommendations from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, which highlights the transformation to the world of work brought about by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. David McClean, Head of School, Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment said: “Employers have been telling us that they are seeking more than just professional competence from our graduates. Developing this framework responds to this change in employer expectations and priorities and the needs of the future work place. It also conveys the added value of our learning and teaching ethos and safeguards a key strength of the university: Employability.” The framework supports one of our key strategic aims which is to ensure that students lie at the heart of curriculum design and delivery, and that our teaching and learning is agile and demand-led. It is also an example of cross-disciplinary collaboration as representatives from every school were involved in the development of the Learning and Teaching framework.



Enhancing our offering through collaboration The Gray’s School of Art have already implemented a number of enhancements that correspond with the ethos of the Framework by developing a new model for the school which will assist the students to gain skills relating to their long-term career goals. The “Personal Professional Development” (PPD) program which has been developed in conjunction with ‘Student Partners’, challenges students to consider different stages of their career path through their undergraduate and postgraduate study. Each semester students engage in PPD accessed via the RGU eHub, the university employability platform, which consist of a series of interactive exercises including videos, quizzes and activities that enables the student to meet the learning outcomes required for each semester’s task. This allows students to not only work on the Gray’s PPD tasks but also gives them access

to a wealth of up-to-date resources available on the RGU eHub offering a variety of relevant information to help students and graduates to increase their employability skills. Collaboration has been at the core of the Gray’s PPD projects and Iain Morrison, Senior Lecturer at Gray’s School of Art and PPD program coordinator worked with a range of staff and support departments across the University to get it off the ground. Iain’s commercial experience as a graphic designer and twenty plus years in education has informed the structure of the PPD program and its implementation across undergraduate and postgraduate courses while also realising this could only be achieved with the support and specialist skills provided through the universities careers services. Iain worked with Lorraine Amies from the Department of Employability and Professional


Enrichment to develop the content and structure of the program bringing her specialist understanding of the opportunities that the Careers Department can offer the students. He also worked with Sally Charles from the RGU Entrepreneurship & Innovation Group to develop business start-up workshops which provide students with one day training courses to develop their business skills and understand how to develop. Gray’s PPD has also gained accreditation to run the ‘Scottish Innovative Student Award’ supported by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise and during the application process Iain had guidance from Pauline Bremner from the School of Creative & Cultural Business in how she had developed their courses with the SIE and later on Veronica Strachan and Laura Ginsburg assisted with the application process to ensure the school made the best of its application for accreditation.


Healthy Relationships at the heart of RGU

Students are at the heart of everything at RGU. A major part of the university’s strategic direction is to enable students to be resilient, succeed in their studies and grow as individuals.


STUDENT EXPERIENCE The Student Life team is core to ensuring students have a positive experience while studying by providing support and services to keep them on track and help them enjoy every moment at RGU. A major aim of the team is to understand what students need for them to be successful, while ensuring their wellbeing is looked after. This is done through a variety of ways within the university, such as counselling, the inclusion centre which helps with disability and dyslexia, report and support, and the student help point, as well as a variety of campaigns and support services. The latest focussing on Healthy Relationships, which has been designed following the Scottish Government’s work on supporting positive relationships and sexual wellbeing in young people.

“From discussions with students and staff following our Speak Up Speak Out campaign and ongoing work on tackling gender-based violence it is clear that negative experiences often come from a lack of understanding of what healthy personal relationships should look like today. We see these personal relationships occurring online, as well as offline, and see the additional challenges that can sometimes bring.

Student Life Project Co-ordinator Fiona Hall Student Life Project Co-ordinator Fiona Hall said: “Working together in partnership between students and staff, we are committed to creating an inclusive, vibrant, safe learning community. “Following on from our recent Speak Up Speak Out campaign and the delivery of the Report and Support online reporting platform, which was a major campaign aimed at tackling genderbased violence, we have recently been working on a number of projects to further ensure our students safety and wellbeing. “The Healthy Relationships campaign has been designed in partnership with RGU: Union to create conversations with our students about what a healthy relationship looks like.

“We really wanted to move the focus from the negative aspects of gender based violence to the positive ingredients of a healthy relationship, and in doing so, hopefully instigate some conversations around what those are, help people recognise any healthy or unhealthy aspects in their own relationships, and if that does lead to a realisation that you are in an unhealthy relationship how you can address that with the support on offer from RGU. Fiona added: “The presence of healthy relationships in our lives, whether we talk about relationships with friends, parents and family members, or romantic and sexual relationships, is vital to living happier lives and contributes to positive mental and physical health and wellbeing. With guidance from the Scottish Government which has created a Healthy Relationships and Consent resource, RGU aims to give an increased awareness and support to students to ensure they understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. “The key things for us to get across were that healthy relationships should feel safe, equal, respectful, enjoyable, consensual, and positive. It’s been great to see the students positively react to the campaign, contributing so many of


these elements, and see some conversations starting within our community around this really important area.” Further messages and information on how to keep your relationships healthy can be found on the Report and Support campaign pages. Report and Support is an online platform where any student of staff member can find support or confidentially report something anonymously or get support from an advisor if they have experienced any negative or unhealthy relationship behaviours, including sexual violence, harassment, stalking or relationship abuse. During Covid-19 Student Life remains committed to providing support across their range of services. Report and Support continues to provide 24-7 online advice, and for those wishing to report or disclose an incident our dedicated staff and network of First Responders remain available to provide remote support. We recognise that due to the UK and Scottish Government’s Covid-19 policies which obligates the public to stay in their homes, those in unhealthy relationships or those suffering from relationship abuse may need additional support, therefore specific information has been added to Report and Support on staying safe while staying home during Covid-19.






Four years ago, when four bright-eyed RGU students approached Scott Murison to start an IMechE Formula Student (FS) centric team, he did not know he would be soon embarking on a journey of collaboration and adventure he had no map for. Scott joined the RGU School of Engineering as an applications supervisor making the daunting but exciting transition from the energy industry to the higher education sector. Having never been interested in motorsports previously, he quickly embraced the role of Faculty Lead for RGU Racing, the team formed to represent the university in the FS program. FS is a leading educational engineering competition which aims to develop enterprising and innovative young professionals using motorsport. Led by IMechE (Institute of Mechanical Engineers), student groups drive towards designing, building and ultimately racing their own Formula-style single-seat race car at Silverstone Raceway – the UK’s premier motorsport venue. After setting up as an RGU Union Society, increasing the size of the team to about fifteen and securing industry partners, the group raised funds and worked tirelessly around their studies to prepare for their first entry into this demanding world of competition in 2019. Scott was ecstatic about their results. He said: “We not only placed ninth out of 44 registered conceptual focussed teams, but we also beat out all other well established Scottish University teams in our class, in design and overall score. It was immensely gratifying to see the students being rewarded for their hard work.” Since then, the team has gone from strength to strength. Increasing in size to over seventy members, RGU Racing now boasts students not only from the School of Engineering but also individuals from Gray’s School of Art, the School of Computing Science and Digital Media, the Aberdeen Business School and the School of Health Sciences – making it a truly interdisciplinary team.

culture, gender and academic interests. Together, the team’s goal is to build its first race car for the 2021 competition. The RGU Racing Team received a big boost from Principal John Harper who shares their enthusiasm and recognises its potential as a platform for departments and schools to work together not only on this project but also starting conversations on educational development, collaboration and innovation. He said: “I was pleased to see how much the RGU Racing team has progressed since they formed in 2016. This project presents a unique opportunity for students to become more innovative, skilled, creative, confident - skills which are highly sought after by employers. The positive relationships being formed internally and externally between students, staff and industry representatives are a reflection on how this team has truly embraced our values of collaboration ambition and innovation. I wish them all the success in the future.” Although the IMechE Formula Student UK Competition has been cancelled for 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19, Scott, like other universities, is collaborating with the IMechE to explore a virtual format for this year, to ensure the entire team can continue to pursue its passion from the safety of their homes.

The RGU Racing Faculty has also grown with the welcome addition of Charlee Riley, Technical Coordinator, Gray’s School of Art and Maryam Sutherland-Khan, Lecturer, Aberdeen Business School, all of who work together to provide guidance and support to this student-led project. This demonstrates the inclusive nature of the project that cuts across boundaries of


HASHTAG TITLES #MYRGU The company behind customisable digital campus curations that brought together a number of online student tools through MYRGU has applauding the excellent work of teams within the university. Students are loving their new digital campus and the staff that helped put it together should be proud!


Our Principal, Professor John Harper, is leading by example through his previous teaching efforts. A former student recounts how John inspired her, and believes that one great teacher can make the difference between downward spirals and great student outcomes.

#YOURUNIONYOURVOICE RGU Union held its Annual General Meeting. Ursula Ojiji, Student President for Communications and Democracy, praised attendees for engaging in improving the student experience and was delighted to see that all motions were passed.


A New Yorker, CEO and Co-Founder of BibliU, shares his appreciation of our new Learning and Teaching Framework. He’s excited to see universities embracing holistic initiatives to set their students up for success later in life.


Celebrating our cultural heritage through storytelling



In an information-saturated age, storytelling is a powerful means of forging connections, capturing history and preserving our rich cultural heritage. The “Story Tagging” project worth €1million is yet another fine example of collaboration between various schools and departments in RGU to support the creative industries. Funded in part by the Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) Programme of the European Union, Story Tagging is an interdisciplinary project, combining the expertise from the School of Creative and Cultural Business, Computing Science and Digital Media and Gray’s School of Art together with international partners from Sweden, Finland and Russia. The project involves multiple workstreams, but the underlying objective is to increase the market reach of small and medium enterprises (SME) in the creative industry by harnessing stories that celebrate the natural and cultural heritage of Northern Communities. One of the central activities will involve developing an integrated digital platform to host stories, trails, movies and information about locations and events in a wide range of multimedia formats. The aim will be to collect up to 30 stories in each partner country, some of which will be recorded by local story tellers. The stories will celebrate language, dialect and culture, ceconomic heritage, traditions, history, folklore, landscape and archaelogy. Project partners will collaborate with five SMEs in each country to bring stories to life through new products or works, which will then be mapped via the platform. Elsa Cox, Orkney Project Development Manager, RGU, said, “Orkney shares a strong history of storytelling with the project regions as demonstrated by local folklore, music, art and an annual Storytelling Festival. The Story Tagging project is exciting as it brings the opportunity to enhance market reach by capturing the rich cultural and natural heritage of the region and imbuing creative products with those stories. Such stories bring large numbers of visitors to the islands annually, keen to experience the landscape and local culture for themselves. The local archaeological sites are of particular interest, but it would also be interesting to explore the more recent past with stories associated with the making of traditional crafts and the island’s world-class sustainable energy development. Creative SME’s in Orkney face similar economic challenges to those based across the project area due to location, distance to market and even lack of internet connection. With the potential to make it easier to do business sustainably in remote regions, the

Story Tagging project has a great deal to offer locally.”

“Orkney shares a strong history of storytelling with the project regions as demonstrated by local folklore, music, art and an annual Storytelling Festival.” - Elsa Cox Project Development Manager The platform will be promoted internationally and digital marketing models will be applied


to enhance the market reach of participating creatives. Visitors accessing stories will access information about participating SMEs and their products and works, with links for online visitors to purchase, access and participate remotely. The platform will also push online traffic to established tourist and visitor information sites. It will collect data analytics, allowing creatives to better understand their customers and audiences to help design and refine future products and works. The Story Tagging project supports RGU’s strategic aims of stimulating economic development, working with organisations to enhance skills and develop new products and services. The intention is that at the end of the project the platform will be available to communities and creatives across the NPA area and a not-for profit business model will be adopted to ensure the long-term sustainability of the digital platform. The platform will also host a skills hub (with training materials on harnessing stories, digital marketing and data analytics) to enhance the capacity of communities and creative SMEs across the wider region.



Image credit: Radarsmum67 under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Authority Figures, Facts and Ramifications

Our opinion of places can be heavily influenced without ever experiencing what’s there for ourselves. How the public perceive places – and the people who live there – is of major interest to Human Geographer and Sociology Lecturer Dr Alice Butler-Warke.

The media, politicians and netizens in general can all let slip the occasional stereotype into their daily routine. Sustained stereotyping like this can give a place – and its people – a bad name. However, if this core stigma suddenly comes to the fore when event stigma strikes – a tragedy or a disaster – then the stereotype suddenly becomes a lot harder to get rid of, and may have unfortunate consequences for the people who live there.

Alice says: “We all know places we consider to be desirable or less than desirable. When you’re looking to move to a new town, you may well be wondering which streets you should avoid living in. Everyone has some picture of what a particular place is like, and that’s what I find really interesting: how these stereotypes about places happen and in what ways they stretch out to affect our society.”

“In business, where you have a robbery, or a fire, or somebody in your organisation has committed fraud – that event can damage your brand, causing people to lose trust,” says Alice. “It’s the same with places. Event stigma tends to clear faster, but if you’ve got background stigma when a severe event occurs, the overall effect is really sticky and it doesn’t go away.”

Places can gain a stereotype or stigma for many reasons. Alice used indepth social media analytics to investigate the varying factors that make people talk a place down. Across 155 days, and more than 2,000 tweets with a specifically targeted derogatory keyword, netizens shared their feelings on places they thought were boring, dirty, populated by people of different races or faiths, poor, or where they simply didn’t like the football team.

As part of Alice’s research, she examined Liverpool’s Toxteth area and how the media have portrayed it over the years. There were riots in Toxteth as result of tensions between the police and the community in the 1980s: largely a result of stop-and-search laws. At the time, unemployment in Britain was at a 50-year peak and the area had one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. The community was pushed to breaking point, with even a local magistrate stating “they would be apathetic fools […] if they didn’t protest”.

The social media insults about places were notable for their gendered dimension. More than 80 per cent of the tweets targeting other places came from men. Women mostly preferred to keep their insults closer to home – their town, their house, their street or bedroom.

Alice adds: “Even 20 years later, newspapers mentioned the riots at the top of each story concerning Toxteth. It couldn’t escape its label.”



VS REALITY Image credit: Wendy Mann under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Research Impact Potential

Toxteth became attached its stigma. It would go on to affect the area in ways that would make it struggle to grow out of its employment predicament. Would businesses want to set up in the area? Were people looking to buy a home there? Would a job interviewer be unbiased with someone from the area?

Alice’s research could impact many industries: how estate agents sell houses in stigmatised areas, how insurance companies tackle increasing the cost of living in climate-change-vulnerable homes, or how journalists report on major events.

“If we purposely exclude people from having a voice, then it is very difficult to change the narrative of a place.”

Alice adds: “I’m happy to hear from anyone interested in the research to see if there are areas we can collaborate on. “Psychologists may be interested from the point of view of mental processing of stereotypes and structures. Sociologists and geographers may be interested in the lived experience. Architects and construction experts may want to find out how different people perceive the built environment in various ways.”

- Dr Alice Butler-Warke “What’s worse, is that journalists never interviewed the residents, only police and politicians,” said Alice. “Locals never had a voice in their situation. I think that’s the biggest thing to take away. If you’re writing about a thing, talk to people who are experiencing it. They’re the ones who actually know about what’s going on.

You can learn more about Alice’s research from her profile page on RGU’s website and through her ORCID iD.

“If we purposely exclude people from having a voice, then it is very difficult to change the narrative of a place. But that’s something this research does. It gives a voice back to the people.”




PIX E L S The digital revolution has radically changed the way people interact. Today almost half of the world’s population are connected to the internet whether it’s watching or sending videos, looking at images on social media, reading or watching the news. We now have 24/7 access to the rest of the world online. But not everything we see is reality.


Pam Johnston, a developing lecturer at RGU’s School of Computing Science and Digital Media, has been looking beyond the pixels to detect when an image or a video has been manipulated – ultimately preventing digital tampering. Pam initially started her journey with RGU as a KTP associate working with Dr Eyad Elyan and a local technology company and when that came to an end, she applied for a fully-funded PhD which focussed on learning and utilising video compression features for localisation of digital tampering.

IMPACTFUL RESEARCH “Video compression is pervasive in digital society,” Pam comments. “With rising usage of deep convolutional neural networks (CNNs) in the fields of computer vision, video analysis and video tampering detection, it is important to investigate how patterns invisible to human eyes, like compression, may be influencing modern computer vision techniques.

Video compression is the term used to define a method for reducing the data used to encode digital video content. This reduction in data translates to benefits such as smaller storage requirements and lower transmission bandwidth requirements, for a clip of video content.

“I’ve been looking at how compression affects learning in neural networks. I knew all data would be compressed to some degree and that compression algorithms were specifically designed to fool human eyes but no one seemed to be looking at whether they also affected – or even fooled – machine vision algorithms. I look at videos and see that they are compressed, which means they’re not perfect representations of reality. The compression patterns reveal a little bit about the history of a video and I started investigating whether computers could detect that – whether CNNs could be trained to estimate the level of compression right from the pixels themselves.”

‘Deep Fakes’ are a form of video tampering that involves altering people’s faces, or putting someone’s face over an actor’s

research a little bit more unique is that I looked at trying to detect multiple different tampering techniques with one algorithm. We reviewed some of the current video manipulation techniques and it’s frightening to see how realistic some of them are. The whole point of tampering a video is to make it look like it hasn’t been tampered with. Humans can’t even see some video tampering, let alone guess at the type of tampering, so new, computerbased detection techniques are required and they should be broadly applicable to multiple tampering types. “Of course, you need quite a lot of data and a few powerful computers to train a CNN to detect compression straight from the pixels, but we managed it to some degree in the end. “I am working towards a detection technique that works on different kinds of video manipulation – I have one algorithm that detects two different kinds of tampering using compression estimates from my trained CNN.

A digital fake refers to a digital video, photo, or audio file that has been altered or manipulated by digital application software.

“Ultimately, I want to be able to detect images that have been entirely manufactured and reliably detect images that have been manipulated but then re-compressed. So right now my research is focussing more on detecting recompression from pixels, or the number of times a given image patch has been compressed. Again, that’s mostly invisible to human eyes, but research shows that computers are quite good at it. “If we can detect it reliably, then we’ll be able to detect when a video has been manipulated and help to prevent digital puppetry.”

Pam explains that around the time of her research ‘Deep Fakes’ hit the headlines, also known as ‘Digital Puppetry’ which is a form of video tampering that involves altering people’s faces, or putting someone’s face over an actor’s. Pam explained: “The thing that made my


HASHTAG TITLES #Microbiology The Microbiology Society penned an article about RGU research to remove poisonous toxins from drinking water. A team of scientists from the university are looking into ways to remove cyanobacteria – also known as blue-green algae – from drinking water as they can cause liver damage and also irritate the skin and eyes.

#Construction Professor Nick Morton, Associate Dean of Birmingham City University, praises RGU’s Professor Richard Laing online by showcasing his Council of Heads of The Built Environment (CHOBE) and Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) funded research.

#cleanpower The World Energy Cities Partnership shared the news that a group of researchers at RGU have teamed up with Sustainable Urban Energy to create a prototype of a renewable energy turbine the size of a satellite dish which could reduce carbon emissions and save homeowners and businesses money each year.

#Paranormal Dr Rachael Ironside was featured in ‘The Next Generation’ section of the Parapsychological Association’s Mindfield magazine. She speaks about her research in paranormal experience, storytelling and supernatural tourism.


Accelerating innovation

11 /11 57% of teams

have at least one international founder*

academic schools applied


successful applications with one or more female founders*



in teams passed through phase 1 of the programme

14 countries outside the UK represented in final teams* *Figures from January’s Accelerator boot camp


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT More than 180 entrepreneurial teams sought access to this year’s Startup Accelerator, and its prized programme of mentorship, development and £10,000 seed funding. Open to students, staff, alumni and NESCol learners, the bar for entry is set high. Ultimately, after eligibility screening, international judges, shortlisting and review, 21 teams made it into 2020’s cohort. The teams will work with industry mentors, collaborate with other startups and use a range of tools to develop and stress test their ideas. This year’s cohort, however, had

to overcome the additional hurdle that many startups are now facing: the COVID-19 pandemic. The Accelerator, created to simulate economic development by injecting a diverse range of products and services into the region, is continuing with its existing schedule despite the additional challenges the coronavirus brings. Innovative ideas will still be grown into fully-founded businesses, but incubated in a more virtual setting. Accelerator participants were already using Microsoft Teams for communications, files and video

calling, making them well prepared to continue the programme – despite the call to isolation. Many face-to-face sessions were moved to Zoom video conferencing, and one-to-one mentor sessions have actually increased. In place of a Founders’ Showcase to celebrate the end of the Accelerator, a new ‘Startup Sunday Live’ event will take place on 31 May 2020. Teams will submit video pitches, and the finalists will broadcast live on YouTube as part of the ‘TV show’ streamed on 31 May, along with highlights and commentary. Cash prizes will be

awarded by a panel of judges, and the stream’s audience will also vote for additional winners. This is the second year of the programme, and the teams represent a diverse spread of industries. From specialist protective clothing for musicians, to eco-friendly toothbrushes and inflatable waterwheels that produce clean, renewable and reliable electricity, the impact of these businesses will reach many people.

The new startup businesses of RGU’s 2020 Accelerator programme Foxshyre Analytics

Kairos Fitness

Developing a pre-trained artificial intelligence algorithm to detect corrosion through image, sound and pulse using drones, underwater vehicles and crawler inspection robots.

Creating an all-in-one health and fitness platform which generates meal and workout plans using artificial intelligence and allowing users to connect with personal trainers and nutritionists.

Story Build

The Needle in the Haystack

A platform to allow audiences to co-create stories in an interactive way across a range of genres where authors can post synopsis and collaborate with a co-writing team to publish on the platform.

Designing an app which provides understandable and interactive knitting patterns to help train users as well as offering a subscription service for knitting materials and kits.



Major milestone in National Subsea Centre development

Chris Pearson

RGU’s multimillion-pound partnership with The Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) to deliver a worldclass subsea research and development hub in Aberdeen has hit a major milestone with the appointment of a Director.

Chris Pearson joins RGU to lead the National Subsea Centre’s drive to tackle current and future challenges in subsea engineering. The NSC represents a massive investment by the partners to deliver cost effective, faster, smarter and cleaner technology which will be developed with, and deployed across, the industry. Chris joins RGU from the OGTC, where he led a team focused on identifying and introducing new technologies and techniques to reduce the cost of marginal field development, improve hydrocarbon recovery and unlock small undeveloped discoveries. In addition, he led the integrated


energy strategy in his group, combining offshore renewable energy with oil and gas to facilitate energy transition and decarbonisation. Chris commented: “We are at a pivotal stage in the NSC’s development and are currently shaping the vision and the sense of direction of travel. A major part of this involved recruiting the right people who can enable us to achieve that vision “In the first instance it’s about establishing sustainability, developing funding streams, and building collaborative relationships with industrial partners, oil and


HASHTAG TITLES #LINA Fraserburgh Academy shares the exciting new collaboration between Aberdeenshire Council and the university that is LINA. Reimagining the use of library spaces to promote and inject entrepreneurship into rural areas, LINA will support startups across Aberdeenshire.

“We are at a pivotal stage in the NSC’s development and are currently shaping the vision and the sense of direction of travel”

#ScotInnovate The Scottish Funding Council shares its excitement over the joint venture between the university and Aberdeen Harbour: a knowledge transfer partnership set to revolutionise planning and berth utilisation in the busy harbour. The new digital innovation project will benefit port users and the environment.

- Chris Pearson, Director, National Subsea Centre

Image: Oceaneering

gas companies, offshore marine renewable companies, and other organisations which are involved in the ocean space “Really key to us right now is to get those relationships established and allow them to help build and shape the activity which we will be involved in.” Drawing on the university’s academic talent, tailored research and expert facilitation, the development of the NSC aims to build capacity and capability in subsea research and anchor that in the north-east of Scotland.

# #LearningInYourPocket

Linking industry demand and expertise with academic capability and skills, the NSC will support and nurture a collaborative approach to problem solving in areas involving communications, data, energy integration, remote monitoring and underwater robotics. Chris continues: “The NSC provides us with a great opportunity to build on RGU’s reputation. We will be utilising the expertise from the many different disciplines and I’m very keen to involve all the schools here - it’s not just about engineering, it’s about business, it’s about design, it’s about sustainable operations.”

Professor Paul Hagan, VP for Research, added: “The appointment of Chris as Director marks a significant milestone in the development of the National Subsea Centre. “Chris brings with him a wealth of experience in technology development for industry and will now work to strengthen the already very strong ties RGU has with industry to deliver world-class subsea research and development.”


Netizens get retweeting the innovation display at RGU, showcasing Micro-Learning Modules in the Sir Ian Wood Building. The modules will put innovation learning in your pocket so you can learn at your own pace.


The partnership between the university, Glulam Solutions and Construction Scotland Innovation Centre (CSIC) aims to tackle the pressing housingmarket needs in Scotland. CSIC shares its video featuring Dr Theo Dounas explaining the project.


Cultivating a culture of creativity Nestled within Gray’s School of Art, sits a small but extremely influential team which, at its core, aims to nurture and retain some of the best creative talent which exists in the North-east. Look Again, which is made up of co-directors Sally Reaper and Hilary Nicoll, alongside Claire Bruce and Laura Reilly, was formed in 2015 as a visual art and design festival which would help people look again at Aberdeen through fresh eyes. A collaboration between RGU and SMART Art Agency, the festival captured the hearts and minds of the public, with a series of amazing artworks and installations. Fast forward to 2020, Look Again is embedded within Gray’s School of Art and is now working with teams across the university, and external partners, on the development of a year round programme of events and exhibitions.

Hilary believes the decision to take Look Again under the wing of RGU was a game changer, and is now enhancing the services and support the team provides. “Things have grown exponentially since we became part of Gray’s,” Hilary said. “We have gone from delivering a very large festival, and adding to that a year round programme of events, exhibitions and workshops. “We are also now much more involved in the academic curriculum, working on a number of projects with different schools and departments to reinforce the importance of the creative industries, and help to provide the knowledge and skills which will help our graduates thrive in their creative careers.



“The creative industries is not only one of the key areas that we are supplying students to, but also one of the key growth sectors in the Scottish economy.

Sally commented: “This will be a development of the Accelerator where we are again looking to attract that creative talent which exists out there, be it alumni, current students or staff, and give them that incubation and support they need to propel them on to big things.

“We are passionate about the sector being recognised as such, both within the university and the within the city, as the economy here is undergoing change and diversification, and as we are increasingly thinking about employability and talent retention for our students.”

“We had so much positive feedback from the first cohort that it had really transformed their practice, so we are looking to build on this and solidify the progress we made into something quite tangible, which will now be credit-rated.

Look Again collaborated with the Entrepreneurship and Innovation Group to launch the first-ever Creative Accelerator in 2019. This has developed into the Creative Entrepreneurship short-course, and will see 40 local creatives gain places on the fully-funded programme.

“For me, RGU is about entrepreneurship, innovation and enterprise, and we are now helping, alongside friends and colleagues throughout the university, to instil this across the creative offering within RGU.”



Employee profile:


Delivering the next generation of midwives Mo Tabib, from RGU’s School of Nursing and Midwifery, was recently recognised at the Scotland Maternity and Midwifery Awards for the development of Antenatal Relaxation Classes (ARC), which help women overcome fears and anxiety in childbirth. What got you started in your current role at RGU and what is your background? I have been a Midwife for 29 years and worked as a hospital, community, research, and independent Midwife to provide care for pregnant women and their families. Starting as a lecturer at RGU in 2013 put me in a very privileged position and allowed me to share my years of experience with the next generation of Midwives. Around eight years ago as a staff Midwife, I started using relaxation techniques for women in labour and this was nothing less than a revolution in my practice. The women in my care who chose to use such an approach rarely asked for pharmaceutical pain relief, were more likely to experience a shorter length of labour, and even those who needed medical interventions expressed having a positive experience.

Can you tell us a bit about your research? Since I started using relaxation techniques, I have been obsessed with learning more about this phenomenon as well as sharing my learning with others. This has resulted in the development of ARC (Antenatal Relaxation Classes) for pregnant women and their families, RTM (Relaxation Training for Midwives) and RTSM (Relaxation Training for Student Midwives). Currently, I am studying for a PhD at Edinburgh Napier University (under the supervision of Professor Caroline Hollins Martine (ENU), Dr Katrina Forbes Mckay, (School of Applied Social Studies, RGU), Professor Tracy Humphrey (Queensland University), and Dr Sonya MacVicar (ENU)). The study aims to explore the influence of ARC on childbirth experiences from the perspectives of women and birth partners.

You were recently recognised for the development of the Antenatal Relaxation Classes (ARC) at the Scotland Maternity and Midwifery Awards, can you tell us a bit more about them? In November 2019, ARC won the national ‘Maternity & Midwifery Innovation Award’. ARC has also been shortlisted for an RCM Innovation


Award; myself and my practice colleague Geraldine Stevenson attended an interview in London in January and presented ARC to the panel; the winner will be announced on the international day of the Midwife (5th May 2020). To date, 2800 women and their partners have attended ARC, near to 100 Midwives and over 300 RGU student Midwives have received the training.

2020 is the first ever global Year of the Nurse and Midwife, how important is it to celebrate the achievements of nurses and midwifes? As much as this project is about ‘women, families and the next generation’, it is about the emotional wellbeing of the current and future workforce. After all, we are all connected, and it would be unrealistic to expect a high standard of health care from a workforce whose wellbeing might be compromised. I hope announcing 2020 as the first ever global year of the Nurse and Midwife will attract more attention to the wellbeing of all hard-working and influential Nurses and Midwives.


Community Stories The university’s staff have been temporarily dispersed into home working environments, but the community remains linked to collaboratively take on the challenges that COVID-19 brings. In that spirit, fuelled by the people that make RGU a great place to work, new Community Stories pages have launched to bring helpful advice, useful tips, and an infotainment approach to helping us stick together and tackle the trials ahead. Your ideas, stories and advice are needed to keep the flow of support alive. We want to hear from you to discuss blog-style entries that will be useful for staff and students to read. They could instil important ideas on wellbeing, or provide more practical solutions to ways of working at home. Anything that you think would be of help – and that you could write using your own expertise and in your own words – we want to hear about it. The pages are already growing at pace, with tales of staff turning brick events to click events from Course Leader Dr Rachael Ironside, how to look after your mental health during selfisolation from Mental Health Nursing Lecturers Scott Macpherson and Dan Warrender, and Q&As with alumni abroad who see the situation in a different light. To take part and contribute your own stories, email RGUCommunications@rgu.ac.uk with your ideas. We can’t wait to hear from you to collaborate on growing this new and useful creative community space. Similarly, your stories will be promoted in the new look and feel bulletin, with editions for both staff and students. Be sure to check your edition’s most recent issue for ways to put forward mini-features that help staff, students and creatively keep the community together.



The university has evolved over the years as the higher education landscape has changed. While this has brought changes to the university, our culture has been the one constant that has endured throughout and stood the test of time. Our culture is part of the institution’s identity and defines what we value as a university community. Our values of authenticity, approachability, collaboration, innovation, ambition and respect are integral to our core principles and standards and informs the way we operate. These values are embedded in everything we say and do as an organisation as well as define what is expected and accepted at RGU. As an innovative, inclusive, impactful and professionallyfocused university, it is important that we continue to uphold this culture in the way that we work together and act as individuals. These videos capture what these values mean to our staff.




We foster an atmosphere of trust and act consistently; people deliver on their promises and demonstrate honesty and commitment in everything they say and do. CLICK TO PLAY


We show concern for others and communicate effectively; we are engaging, friendly and professional.






We value the benefits of working in partnership, recognise complementary strengths and build and maintain effective and productive working relationships.


We have the confidence to recognise and realise opportunities for growth and development, responding constructively, flexibly and positively to challenges and change.





We constantly look for and implement improved ways of working, contribute new ideas, and engage within and across teams to solve problems.



We listen to other people’s views, treat everyone with respect, and challenge unacceptable behaviour in others.





Rachel Corsie receives Honorary degree from RGU The captain of the Scottish national women’s football team, Rachel Corsie, was recognised with an honorary degree from RGU. Rachel, who is a qualified accountant, vlogger, television pundit, part-time journalist, and an alumna of RGU, accepted her honorary Master of the University (MUniv). Rachel grew up in Aberdeen, attending both Hazlehead Primary and Academy. She developed a love of football by playing in the local park with her Dad and brother. By the time Rachel attended RGU on a sports scholarship she was already captain of the Scotland under 19 team, having played locally for both Stonehaven and Aberdeen. She was responsible for establishing the University’s first Women’s team and, by the time of Rachel’s graduation, RGU had become the top Scottish University in women’s football.

Rachel Corsie , Captain of the Scottish National Women’s Football Team

RGU brings together cyber security, law and technology experts for unique conference Cyber security, law and technology experts recently gathered on campus for a unique conference as part of Cyber Security Scotland Week 2020. Around 100 people attended to hear keynote speakers from around the UK discuss critical aspects of policy and cyber security relevant for the UK North Sea activity. The Rt Hon Lord Hodge, Deputy President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, discussed the legal aspects of technological change; Professor Siraj Shaikh who is Professor of system security at the University of Coventry explored aspects of cyber security for the sea; and Co-director of the Scottish Arbitration Centre, Brandon Malone, spoke about the aspects of cyber security and arbitration practice. Stephen Ashley, Digital Transformation Solution Centre Manager at the Oil and Gas Technology Centre (OGTC) also provided a talk about OGTC’s cyber security landscape and research.



Highly Commended Award for RGU MBA at AMBA BGA Excellence Awards Kris Lindahl and Hal Selvesen, RGU MBA alumni, were highly commended for their venture Digital Future Capital at the Association of MBAs (AMBA) and Business Graduates Association (BGA) Excellence Awards. The awards celebrates the quality and achievements of business education at the forefront of leadership and business excellence, recognising the talents and contributions made by AMBA-accredited and BGA member Business Schools. Kris and Hal were shortlisted in the MBA Entrepreneurial Venture Award (Private sector).

Kris and Hal at the AMBA BGA Excellence Awards

Universities Scotland Parliamentary Reception RGU participated in a reception held for universities to showcase to members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) their impact in local communities. The RGU team was represented by Paul Hagan, Deputy Principal, Libby Curtis, Head of Gray’s School of Art and Vallath Kavitha Krishnan, Senior Communications Officer and Gabrielle Reith, an artist and illustrator for Look Again and an alumna of Gray’s School of Art. Our stand was visited by many MSPs such as John Swinney, Liz Smith, Alex Burnett, Richard Lochhead, Kevin Stewart, Lewis MacDonald and Maureen Watt who heard about RGU’s role in the social and cultural vibrancy of the local community. Libby Curtis, Vallath Kavitha, MSP Kevin Stewart, Gabi Reith, Paul Hagan




Students achieve highest level of SISA awards

RGU students have been hailed as ‘Innovative Champions’ by achieving the highest level of the Scottish Innovative Student Award Scheme (SISA). RGU was the first university to achieve accreditation from SISA, which was created by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE) and aim to equip students with a forward-thinking and enterprising business skillset. After being successful in achieving their Level 1 ‘Future Thinker’ through the school’s accredited modules, the students progressed to Level 2 ‘Innovation Catalyst’ which was a workshop with SIE where they tackled a real life challenge on the theme of inclusion. Lucia da Vinci, Bartosz

Grabski, Ivana Krizova, Irina Bogdan, Eilidh Mellis and Sofia Bonetti have now passed their Level 3 ‘Innovation Champion’ award which means they will be able to access support tailored to their needs in order to advance their innovation project. They were presented with their awards at the What’s Next Conference at RGU - a one-day career development event bringing students together for presentations and workshops.

Supreme Court Report Launch Academics from the Law School and the School of Applied Social Sciences have been working in partnership with the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) to mark Human Rights Day. The BASW commissioned Linda Harms-Smith, Janine Bolger, Alice Butler-Warke, Paul Arnell and Margaret Downie from RGU, as well as five others, to produce reports to help the public understand how important human rights are. The new resources aim to show how social workers can be at the forefront of defending existing human rights and building new rights and protections for the most vulnerable. They were launched at the UK Supreme Court in London.


Profile for Robert Gordon University

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